Jan Rosset, Nathalie Giger, Julian Bernauer
I the People? Self-Interest and Demand for Government Responsiveness

Comparative Political Studies, 2017: 50, issue 6, pp. 794-821
ISSN: 0010-4140 (print); 1552-3829 (online)

Whether elected representatives should be responsive to the wishes of the majority of citizens has been an issue often discussed from a normative perspective. This article shifts the focus by looking at the determinants of support for responsiveness among citizens. Its core argument is that attitudes towards responsiveness vary systematically depending on the policy gains an individual can expect from a government that is responsive to the preferences of the majority of citizens. The analysis of data from the European Social Survey and twenty-one countries confirms these expectations. Individuals whose ideological stances are well reflected by the incumbent government are less favourable to the idea that governments should be responsive to the preferences of the majority, while one’s proximity to the ideological location of the median citizen increases the odds of support for responsiveness. Self-interested attitudes are found across a variety of European democracies.